Open Engagement Conference was founded in 2007 by a worldwide famous artist and writer Jen Delos Reyes. The goal of Open Engagement is to gather everyone involved with any form of art under one roof and provide them with a space to share their works and collaborate while also highlighting the problems of modern society.
For more than 13 years of its existence, the conference has hosted more than 7000 attendees and 1800 presenters, among which are prominent cross-curricular creators, scholars, activists, and organizations.
It has served as a beacon, shining the light of inspiration to all socially engaged artists, students, professional writers, even the ones working in an essay writer service, community members, and many other people who devote themselves to art. Being completely free, it is a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and discuss societal issues.
Jen Delos Reyes
Jen Delos Reyes is a well-known artist from Winnipeg, Canada. She used to work as an assistant professor at Portland State University, where she has created many educational courses.
Her main points of interest have always been socially engaged art and collaborative works. Jen is also a writer, having published a book called Art and Social Practice Reference Points that covers the main three areas of that subject, including workbooks, people, and thematic volumes.
Yet, her main achievement is the creation of the Open Engagement Conference. She founded and managed Open Engagement herself as an opportunity to continue working and exploring the field of the socially engaged arts and social practice.
Open Engagement 2007
Originally, the project of the Open Engagement Conference was born out of Jen Delos Reyes’ graduate studies of the final year of her MFA at the University of Regina.
Jen conference 2007 was self-organized and involved many international contributors and writers. The event lasted for three days, with a unique exploration topic being presented each day.
“Art and everyday experience” was the first day’s theme, “Collaborations, collectives, other team relationships” followed the next day, and the last subject was “Long-term relationships, communities, and connectivity.” The first conference was a successful start to an international event known globally now.
Open Engagement 2010
The second Open Engagement Conference was held at Portland State University. It was planned in collaboration with the Art and Social Practice students of that University and local activists.
The writers and artists participated in the programs like Making Things, Making Things Worse, and Making Things Better. More than 150 presenters, with famous names among them, and attendees were challenged to redefine the traditional concept of art and its influence on society.
Jen conference 2010 offered a modern approach to such contemporary subjects as art itself, its role as a service, as activism, as social space, and as a relationship.
Open Engagement 2014
Open Engagement Conference of the year 2014 took place in Queens, New York, and was hosted by Queens Museum. It was the first year when the conference went digital.
In continuation of previous years’ success, even more well-known writers and presenters took part in the Jen conference 2015. Among them were such names as Mierle Laderman Ukeles and J. Morgan Puett. The participants presented a highly relevant subject of modern times - Life/Work. That year was also significant as it was the first one for Open Engagement to become seen as an institution and a point of critique.
Open Engagement Chicago 2017
The next important point in the history of the Open Engagement Conference was the year 2017 marked by Open Engagement Chicago. The amount of attendees has risen significantly since the first event in 2007, as Open Engagement 2017 was well recognized on a national level by numerous creators, authors from writing services, and, of course, social activists.
Many people from all parts of the country and the world became a part of the community at the arts presenters conference 2017. The presenters collaborated on the topic of JUSTICE as a continuation of the previous year’s POWER.
Jen conference 2017 was a great opportunity for anyone concerned with social issues to share knowledge and experience while exhibiting artworks under the professional eye of Romi Crawford and Lisa Yun Lee as curators.
The main part of the event was held at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and in many other locations all around the city. It was also supported by Chicago Open House 2017 as an effort to help spread the word about art and its close interaction with social practice. The famous names of this year included Maria Gaspar, Theaster Gates, Maria Varela, and many others.
Open Engagement Queens 2018
After the event in Chicago, Open Engagement Conference moved back to Queens, New York, where it has already occurred before, in the year 2014. It was a second time in this city, but compared to the previous Queens Open, Jen Conference 2018 was much bigger and attracted even more people.
Over the years, the project of Jen Delos Reyes has gone a long way from a university study and a small local event to a huge international conference with hundreds of artists, writers, students, and activists contributing as well as thousands of attendees.
Among all the participants there were such famous creators as Lucy Lippard and Mel Chin. Queens Open 2018 was held in the same manner as the previous conferences, following the previous topics of JUSTICE and POWER with SUSTAINABILITY being the main theme of 2018.
Sustainability was chosen because it is a very important issue in the modern world, with dozens of giant international brands using it as the main direction in production and marketing.
Of course, socially engaged arts also remained the core of the whole event. Additionally, Open Engagement 2018 provided guests with an opportunity to discuss community building and social issues during Dinner Conversation Series.
Open Engagement Conference
Open Engagement Conference is among the best examples of how art in combination with social practice can give people countless new opportunities.
Originating from a graduate study project hosted by students, it has gotten huge success and recognition. Most importantly, every time it achieves its goal, sharing the ideas of socially engaged arts and displaying social issues as important global problems that need much more attention.
Events like Open Engagement allow people to introduce themselves to something new, have countless interesting acquaintances from all over the world, share their art and general life experiences, and develop themselves personally.
The founder and director Jen Delos Reys put her soul into this event to let people showcase and discuss their works and beliefs. The aim is to continue creating what one is used to, but with unique approaches in mind, expanding the boundaries of what one can express through art.
After attending the Jen conference, artists might start using new colors they have always avoided, sculptors might try new different techniques, professionals might become even more productive, writers might try other styles. Everyone will surely find an inspiration to discover and explore something completely new and unique.
This is all made possible due to the dedication, commitment, and confidence in creating something truly great and important for society. With the will to develop personally, study, and try something new, provided it brings joy and a sense of satisfaction, one can push all the limits away and achieve anything.